Cognitive deficits that are reported in heavy marijuana users (attention, memory, affect perception, decision-making) appear to be completely reversible after a prolonged abstinence period of about 28 days. However, it remains unclear whether the reversibility of these cognitive deficits indicates that (1) chronic marijuana use is not associated with long-lasting changes in cortical networks or (2) that such changes occur but the brain adapts to and compensates for the drug-induced changes. Therefore, we examined whether chronic marijuana smokers would demonstrate a differential pattern of response in comparison to healthy volunteers on a decision-making paradigm (Risk Task) while undergoing sham or active transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Twenty-five chronic marijuana users who were abstinent for at least 24h were randomly assigned to receive left anodal/right cathodal tDCS of DLPFC (n=8), right anodal/left cathodal tDCS of DLPFC (n=9), or sham stimulation (n=8); results on Risk Task during sham/active tDCS were compared to healthy volunteers from a previously published dataset. Chronic marijuana users demonstrated more conservative (i.e. less risky) decision-making during sham stimulation. While right anodal stimulation of the DLPFC enhanced conservative decision-making in healthy volunteers, both right anodal and left anodal DLPFC stimulation increased the propensity for risk-taking in marijuana users. These findings reveal alterations in the decision-making neural networks among chronic marijuana users. Finally, we also assessed the effects of tDCS on marijuana craving and observed that right anodal/left cathodal tDCS of DLPFC is significantly associated with a diminished craving for marijuana.
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